Amanda & Merrill

Spatchcocked and Braise-Roasted Chicken

December  3, 2010

Spatchcocked and Braise-Roasted Chicken

- Amanda

About a decade ago, I went to a cooking demonstration at Macy's by Christopher Hirscheimer, who was then a founding editor at Saveur, and who is now the co-founder of the superb Canal House.

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Hirscheimer showed the crowd her trick for making it easy to carve roasted chicken -- she simply cut out the chicken's backbone before roasting, then she reshaped the bird and trussed it to hold it together. Spatchcocking is a similar technique except instead of re-shaping the bird, you flatten it, making it possible to grill or saute a bird in one layer. And I'd spatchcocked before. But I'd never thought of Hirscheimer's approach to the classic roast chicken. At that moment, the clouds parted and rays shined down on Hirscheimer. I bowed to the master.

Fast forward to this fall. At a dinner with some fellow food52ers in Boston, our conversation touched on chef Gordon Hammersley's technique of "braise-roasting" poultry -- where he submerges the meat in broth and leaves the skin exposed to the oven heat. And then a few weeks later over Thanksgiving, my deeply food-crazy Twitter stream bubbled over with declarations of dry-brining, deep-frying, braise-roasting, spatchcocking, and all manner of techniques to achieve a moist bird with crisp skin.

I thought it was time to get in the kitchen to try the combo of spatchcocking and braise-roasting. As usual, rather than do any research, I winged it, occasionally calling out to Merrill for advice. Here are the results!

Spatchcocked and Braise-Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

  • One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed (skins left on)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup fino sherry or dry white wine
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices (skin left on; seeds discarded)

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Using poultry shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken. Reserve the backbone. Turn the chicken skin-side-up and press down on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Generously season the chicken all over.

2. In a casserole pan or other low shallow pan large enough to fit the flattened chicken, melt the butter in the oil over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the chicken skin-side-down, and the backbone, and brown well, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove to a plate. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat.

3. Set the pan back on the stove. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook over medium heat until the shallot has softened, about 2 minutes. Add the rosemary, sage and sherry. Increase the heat and boil off nearly all the sherry. Add 1 cup chicken broth and the lemon slices. Gently lower the chicken back into the pan, again skin-side up.

4. If needed, add more broth to come 1/2-inch up the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to the oven, and braise-roast until the chicken is cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees), 30 to 50 minutes.

5. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes -- uncovered, or the skin will soften! Carve the bird. Strain the pan juices and adjust the seasoning. Serve bird and cooked-down broth, and enjoy!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Audrey January 12, 2015
Hmmm....not a newbie cook and this didn't work out great for me. Had great hopes. The sauce was great, the skin lovely, but the chicken itself...still pink after 50 min, so the breast dried out while the thigh/leg cooked.
Baylee_Curlygirl April 12, 2011
I made this last night for dinner and it turned out great! I'm glad I read the comments about the lemon pith and the bitterness it can cause in the dish. When I cut my lemon, I noticed the pith was very thilk, at least 1/4 inch or more. In looking at Amanda's picture of her dish, I noticed that her pith was much thinner. I zested my lemon with a Microplane, cut the rest of the pith away and then sliced my lemons. The sauce was perfectly balanced with no bitterness whatsoever. So if you are making this dish, notice how thick your pith is on your lemons and adjust accordingly.
foodfighter December 16, 2010
Made this, and likely used too much broth. The meat came out great, but the sauce was a miss. I found the sauce was extremely bitter/off from lemon and potentially something else. Will try again with less broth and just lemon zest only or preserved lemons and a sweeter wine next time.
Amanda H. December 21, 2010
A couple of people have this bitterness issue and it must have to do with the lemon pith (perhaps some pith is more bitter than others). Using the zest or preserved lemons is a smart solution!
mrso December 12, 2010
My husband and I loved this! I tried it with chicken thighs I usually hate to cook (and eat:) and turned terrible into TERRIFIC! I submitted a pic, again, thank you!
Amanda H. December 12, 2010
Glad to hear all worked out!
Foodelf December 10, 2010
I made this for dinner and LOVED it - it will be my favourite chicken recipe for 2010 - so easy, too. I was stunned by how the herbs & lemon perfumed and flavoured the entire chicken. I still have some thyme and fresh bay in the garden so that will be my next combination.

For years, one of my favourite chicken recipes has been Amanda's Pan Roasted Chicken w/ End of Season Tomatoes.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Glad it turned out well for you -- and haven't thought about that other chicken recipe since, well, summer!
Madame S. December 9, 2010
I made this the past weekend and while I did tear the skin a little it came out ok. It was really dry. Also, the broth that was in the bottom of the pan in the end was SOO bitter from the lemon, I assume. I am going to try it again and see if maybe I can try a different pan and not to cook it as long since there is more cooking surface.

Any thoughts on the bitter pan juices/broth?
Foodelf December 10, 2010
If you add a little cream to the pan juices that may help tone down any bitterness and you might think of stirring in a little apple jelly or a touch of maple syrup.

I wonder if your lemon had a rather thick skin resulting in that bitterness.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
I'm wondering the same thing. When I made it, I worried the broth would be bitter (because of the pith being included) but it turned out ok -- maybe the pith on my lemon was thinner. Next time -- if you'll try it again -- maybe just do strips of lemon rind rather than whole slices. Safer.
Bowmgbo December 7, 2010
My chickens 10+ years ago, in my early days of cooking, were spatchcocked (Cook's Illustrated recipe).

Since then I've done it pretty much every which way except rotisserie. In the past year I've actually become "burned out" on chicken, usually disappointed with the new, latest & greatest recipe's failure to deliver crisp skin and moist, flavorful meat. Don't have chicken much anymore.

Until now . . . this recipe has changed my run of bad luck. Gordon H. is a genius. This recipe rocks!
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
A culinary recovery -- love it.
ChickenPotPie December 7, 2010
I made this last night and it was delicious. The skin wasn't crispy enough but the flavor was great. Spatchcocking was easier than I thought it would be, plus it's fun to say. Thanks for the recipe!
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Thanks for giving it a try. Another trick for crisp skin would be to spatchcock the chicken, then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight before braise-roasting it.
Baylee_Curlygirl December 7, 2010
I made this last night and it turned out great! I didn't have sage or rosemary, but I did have a bunch of fresh parsley so I used that along with the lemon, shallots & garlic. The chicken was so moist & juicy - just delicious. I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet and other than it being heavy to handle, it worked well. Thanks Amanda for a great recipe. I will definitely be making this again.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
You're welcome!
Tamio888 December 6, 2010
Did it! What a happy result! Used my 12" cast iron. No rosemary in the house - used thyme. Great liquids went well with rice. Thanks, girls!
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Didn't think to serve it with rice -- good idea.
johnandrewwalsh December 6, 2010
I tried this on Sunday, mostly just because the word "spatchcock" made me LOL. (I'm an idiot.)
It's fantastic. I love trussing and roasting a whole bird in an iron skillet the way Thomas Keller does it, but that never gave me the hit of herbs and aromatics I got from this method. My friends left ZERO leftovers, the bums. But I guess that's a nice compliment. Thanks!
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Trussing -- another great word.
lpcooks December 6, 2010
I made this last night. It was my first ever attempt at roast chicken and it came out beautifully! I think I might have added a little too much broth, so at the end, I boiled it down a bit and it had a wonderful rich flavor. I might do without the lemon, but that's just a personal preference. I will definitely make all my roast chicken like this.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Glad I've made you a convert. :)
adashofbitters December 5, 2010
This was... wait for it... last night's dinner. I think what we love most about this method is the way it beautifully infuses the meat with the flavors of the aromatics.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
LOL. Nice one.
Durban73 December 4, 2010
I have a problem with the skin getting ripped off the chicken when i try to remove it. The skin is nice and seared dark golden brown. I'm using the same Le creuset oval dish as you, but my chicken doesnt look as nice without the skin. Bummer.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Do you mean when you're turning it? Maybe use a little more butter and oil when browning it (you can always pour some of it off).
JoTC December 4, 2010
Made it last night using the All Clad Stainless Steel French Skillet (my casserole dish was too small and didn't want to make it in the roaster). Loved that it literally went from stove top to oven. Improvised with Shaoxing wine (chinese glutinous rice wine) and gave the chicken a nice rustic flavor (reminded me of coq au vin). Will definitely be making this again and again.
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
Ooh! Going to try that.
Oui, C. December 4, 2010
and now it is our turn to bow to you. Brilliant idea, and a nice weeknight shortcut on the fab Hammersley's dish. I will be making this with the kids for dinner this week for sure. - S
Amanda H. December 11, 2010
You guys inspired it -- thanks. :)
Tamio888 December 4, 2010
Just to be able to tell people that you spatch-cocked a chicken is reason alone to make this. I'm thinking of my cast-iron 12"er for this. Also, I would cherish the removed back. The back is truly my favorite piece of the bird.
AntoniaJames December 3, 2010
Amanda, is there any advantage to using the gratin dish that you used, as opposed to a heavy French copper gratin pan? I want to make this tomorrow!! Thinking maybe a splash of that Madeira I bought to make Mr. Hirschfeld's gravy for T-Day would be nice in it. Thank you so much. ;o)
Amanda H. December 3, 2010
I think a copper gratin pan would work really well -- and two thumbs up to the addition of Madeira!
AntoniaJames December 3, 2010
Oh, this look so good! I spatchcocked our T-Day turkey, with a lot of great advice and encouragement from the foodpicklers here. I just used regular (but relatively new) kitchen shears and they worked beautifully. I have never thought to get a gratin pan -- I assume yours is enamel-covered cast iron -- that could go on the stove top. Brilliant! Santa is definitely going to hear about this. ;o)
Amanda H. December 3, 2010
Yes it's a Le Creuset enamel-covered cast iron. I use it for everything.
Soozll December 3, 2010
This looks so good! Wouldn't this be cute using some little Cornish game hens?
Amanda H. December 3, 2010
Absolutely. Would also work for duck.